Mark Dunn, Herald Sun
July 27, 2017 3:09am
A FAULTY shipment of assault rifles compromised security at the Australian embassy in Afghanistan and prompted a change of the guards at checkpoints, it has emerged.
Some of the weapons exploded during test firing and others were found to be inoperable.
Checkpoint, embassy and diplomatic residence guards, generally Nepalese Gurkha and locally employed staff, were issued locally purchased AK-47s — some of which were 60 years old — which were found to have malfunctions, including bent barrels, a source has told the Herald Sun.
Australian mobile teams, armed with M4 assault rifles and Glock pistols, were retasked from close personal protection and transport missions to manning checkpoints and the residences of diplomatic staff until the issue was addressed earlier this month.
“The embassy are fully aware of the incident, it has gone very high-level and there is an investigation under way. DFAT are fully aware as is the ambassador,” the source, familiar with the problems, said.
“They were without proper protection for up to two days until the mobile teams were used to cover for them. This lasted about 24 to 48 hours.”
It is understood that of the 71 AK-47s in a shipment purchased for approximately $130,000, about 63 were found to have defects and several “exploded” during fire range testing by an armourer.
The weapon problems come as GardaWorld, which, through subsidiary Aegis Worldwide Australia, runs the embassy security contract, is locked in a dispute with the expat security workforce over an 11 per cent withholding tax it says should be paid but which Australian staff claim is illegal given their diplomatic status. A number of expat guards have threatened to resign or take industrial action.
Additionally, Australian expat security quarters need repairs after a truck bomb at a German checkpoint a number of weeks ago killed about 100 people and injured 400 others.
Neither GardaWorld nor Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would comment on specifics or the tax issues, but DFAT indicated it was aware of the weapons faults.
DFAT said its contract with Aegis/GardaWorld “is closely managed on a day-to-day basis through the embassy, in consultation with DFAT in Canberra”.